Higgins advised against referring asylum Bill to Supreme Court

President’s Council of State meeting at Áras an Uachtaráin includes Kenny and Burton

President Michael D Higgins: Convened the  meeting in Áras an Uachtaráin which extended to over three hours. Photograph: PA

President Michael D Higgins: Convened the meeting in Áras an Uachtaráin which extended to over three hours. Photograph: PA

 

The majority of those present at yesterday’s Council of State meeting said President Michael D Higgins should not refer a proposed law governing the Irish asylum process to the Supreme Court.

Mr Higgins convened a meeting of the council in Áras an Uachtaráin yesterday, and the meeting lasted over three hours.

According to sources, only one of those present said that the President should refer the Bill to the court.

Mr Higgins gave opening and concluding remarks at the meeting, which heard all attendees speak.

Attorney General Máire Whelan outlined the contents of the Bill, after which Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton spoke. Also present were former taoisigh John Bruton, Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen and former president Mary McAleese.

Entirety

One source said a view shared by a number of those present was that, while some aspects of the Bill may be challenged in future, the Bill in its entirety should stand and should not be referred to the Supreme Court.

Mr Higgins has given himself 24 hours to make his decision and plans to make his opinion known today.

The legislation, the international protection Bill 2015, aims to streamline the application process for asylum seekers. The President was said to be concerned at the guillotine imposed on the legislation, which meant there was limited debate on its provisions in the Dáil and Seanad.

The provisions of the Bill examined by the Council of State regard the definition of the family under sections 56 and 57; the rights of children to have refugee status; and whether section 78 prevents people from seeking asylum in the State. It is understood that the President’s biggest concern is an apparent redefinition of the family in the Bill.

A statement released by Áras an Uachtaráin following the meeting said: “President Michael D Higgins has concluded a meeting of the Council of State in relation to the international protection Bill 2015.

“The President has thanked the members of the Council of State and will take the decision on whether the Bill should be referred to the Supreme Court in the next 24 hours.”

It was only the second time Mr Higgins had asked council to meet, the first being for the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill. Also yesterday, he signed another two pieces of legislation – the Electoral (Amendment) Bill and the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill – into law.